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Surviving the Holidays with Diabetes: It’s Easier Than You Think

Thanksgiving Feast

Photo credit: Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Surviving the holidays with diabetes.
Living well with diabetes is a 24/7, year-round challenge of balancing nutrition, physical activity, and medication.  This is especially true during the holiday season. The sheer volume of food, particularly the extra special once-a-year favorites, are tempting and may lead to overeating and poor blood glucose, blood pressure, blood fat control and weight gain.  However, a little foresight can help you take part in the holiday festivities and still maintain good diabetes control.

Be mindful of your typical diabetes eating plan and how to make food and beverage adjustments without compromising your health.  Your health care provider can help you prepare a personalized strategy for integrating those special foods into your meal plan and still maintain good control.  Together, you will consider your daily routine and how to best adjust to changes in types of foods, amounts of foods, and different meal times that you might encounter.

Here are a few tips for staying healthy during the holidays.
Be Observant of Serving Sizes versus Portions

The American Diabetes Association – Choose Your Foods: Food Lists for Diabetes provides a list of carbohydrate foods and the amount of each food that provides one serving.

The food list includes:

Starch: grain products; starchy vegetables; and legumes
Fruits
Milk and milk substitutes
Sweets, desserts, and other carbohydrates
Non-starchy vegetables

One-serving provides 15 grams of carbohydrate which is equivalent to one carbohydrate choice.  The exception is non-starchy vegetables which provides 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving.  Therefore, three servings of non-starchy vegetables provides 15 grams of carbohydrate equivalent to one carbohydrate
choice.
In contrast, a portion can be any amount. Therefore, be careful when people serve you food.  It is better to select your own foods in the amounts that will work best with your meal plan.

Watch Out For Higher Calorie Foods

Holiday foods tend to be “richer” because they contain higher amounts of carbohydrates and fat.  This of course means more calories in each bite.  Consider scanning the buffet table first before making your selections.  Then decide how much you want to eat so you can balance the higher calorie foods with the lower calorie foods to create your healthy Diabetes Plate.  Remember, just a taste is often all you need to satisfy your craving.

Bring Your “Special Food” to the Holiday Meal  

Holiday gatherings usually include an assortment of food provided by family and friends.  It is a traditional way to share in the spirit of the occasion.  Consider bringing a food dish you typically eat or a
healthier version of a holiday recipe.  Whether you are celebrating at home or as a guest, you can have a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy.

Be Physically Active

Maintain your normal routine, and if appropriate step up your activity to help balance for eating a little more than usual.

Plan Meals Around Non-Starchy Vegetables

The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Plate Method is a helpful way to plan your meals.  The Plate is set up to include non-starchy vegetables on half the plate, lean protein on one-quarter and starch on the remaining quarter.  Considering that holiday vegetable choices are usually made with excess fat and sugar, it is wise to prepare a few healthy non-starchy vegetable dishes as part of your meal.

Healthier versions of non-starchy vegetables are a delicious meal addition and are low in carbohydrates, fat, and calories.  Making half your plate non-starchy vegetables is a perfect way to off-set other high fat and high sugar foods.  Some popular non-starchy vegetables include asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cooking greens, green beans, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.